UPSET over acute water shortage for nearly a week, the residents of Mapusa had to take out a morcha to highlight their plight. They blocked the main road near the town’s bus stand. Non-availability of water during Ganesh Chaturthi dampened the spirit of the people, who vented their anger against the officials of the public works department by gheraoing them. Even prominent residents, who normally keep away from agitations, decided to join the agitating residents of the town. The PWD officials attributed the situation to burning of two water pumps, which draw water from the Assonora water treatment plant for distribution to Bardez taluka and some villages of the Bicholim taluka. What is surprising to note is that despite knowledge about burning of the water pumps, the PWD officials did not think of making alternate arrangements. It was only after the agitation that they swung into action to make alternate arrangements. Had people not agitated they could have quietly ignored the plight of the people.
It was not only the local officials who played dumb spectators to the plight of the Mapusa people but also their seniors at the headquarters. When the Mapusa assistant engineer and others tried to contact the seniors, their calls went unanswered. The government should inquire why the higher officials ignored the calls. The action taken by the PWD officials after the agitation has once again proved that the government officials tend to act only when people resort to agitation. The PWD has now made arrangements to supply water for about an hour and half alternately to different areas. Why could not the officials do similar arrangements during the festive season? What happened in Mapusa is not the only one of its type. Disruption in water supply is quite common and one area or the other faces the problem on a day to day basis. Water is supplied for a few hours and some areas do not get a drop at times due to low pressure. In most cases the reasons attributed to shortage in water supply to rupturing of the pipeline or power failure or failure of the pumps. It takes weeks, if not months, for the water supply division to repair damaged pipelines even in cities including Panaji. Why can’t the officials set up a system to locate the leakage of water and take steps to repair the damaged pipelines soonest?
After the agitation, PWD officials have now decided to prevent water crisis due to failure of water pump by replacing all the four 12 MLD old pumps at the 30 MLD water treatment plant at Assonora. A tender for installation of additional pump and augmenting the 30 MLD plant to 50 MLD has also been cleared to increase the water output. As frequent power failures due to snapping of overhead power lines have been attributed to failure of the pumps, the PWD has requested the electricity department to lay underground cable and the work is expected to be completed in about a month’s time. If all the works are completed as scheduled then the water supply problems in Bardez and Bicholim would be a thing of past and the people could look forward to receiving regular water supply. The department has also proposed a dedicated water pipeline from the Assonora treatment plant to Mapusa of 700 mm running parallel to the existing line at a cost Rs 42 crore to end the water owes of Mapusa residents. Such projects should be undertaken for other areas as well. It is necessary that they are completed in a time-bound manner to ensure that people do not suffer.
Surprisingly, as the people of town suffered acute water shortage, the Mapusa Municipal Council woke up belatedly to pass a resolution asking the PWD to urgently end water problems of Mapusa people. As water and power supplies get routinely affected in the state, a manual to deal with emergencies has to be prepared so that people are least inconvenienced. As most of the water pipelines and the pumping machinery are old, the authorities should take steps to replace them at the earliest. The maintenance of the machinery should be done periodically. Any defect noted during the maintenance of machinery should be promptly addressed and replacement ordered in case major defects are found. As water and electricity are essential for everyday life, uninterrupted supply should be a priority for the government. The government should hold officials charged with responsibilities for water and power supply accountable for frequent disruptions if they happen to be owing to their fault.